Friday, 10 June 2016

Black is the Colour of My Dramaturgy: Apphia Campbell @ Brunton

Seabright Productions: Black Is The Color Of My Voice

Inspired by the life of Nina Simone, Black Is The Color Of My Voice, follows a successful jazz singer and civil rights activist seeking redemption after the untimely death of her father.

She reflects on the journey that took her from a young piano prodigy destined for a life in the service of the church to a renowned jazz vocalist at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement.

Direct from sell out performances in Shanghai, New York and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Apphia Campbell visits Musselburgh as part of her debut UK tour.

Some strong language and adult themes.

How do you approach 'being' Nina: she is a much loved singer with a complex personality, and does this make it hard to capture her qualities?I approached Nina(Mena as she called in my play), as just a woman. It was really important for me to capture the essence of who she was rather than her stage personality. This is one of the reasons why I changed the name of the character, so instead of the audience focusing on “Nina Simone” the artist. I wanted them to focus on the woman behind the music. I also chose to the change the name because I wanted the music to add mood and texture to the text, and of course, I sing the music. But it’s used as more of a medium to take the story forward or convey a mood just as Nina Simone used it.

What attracted you to her work in the first instance?Nina Simone’s voice is what attracted to me to her. What else could it be? She has one of the most interestingly haunting voices that I’ve ever encountered, and this made me want to know more about the woman behind that voice. When I heard her sing, I was hooked and when I watched her perform I was even more intrigued. I had to know more. I remember watching a clip of her performing “My Baby just cares for me”, and her face looked as if she were a million miles away from that performance. I kept saying, “What is she thinking about? Where is she?” These kind of questions kept causing me to dig deeper.

Do you feel any responsibility to her in a way that you would not feel for a 'fictional character', and how does this express itself in the performance?
I feel a great deal of responsibility towards her because it’s her life. These are elements that I’ve taken from her life, and yes, I’ve changed a few things and interpreted them in a way that I feel she would react to a situation, but in the end it’s Nina Simone’s life. So, I feel like I want to people to walk away with as much respect and love that I’ve developed for her and the only way to do that is to be as human on stage as she would have been in this room alone. Nina Simone was real. 

No acting. No hiding.That’s how I approach my performance. I don’t force any emotion I try to just stay in the moment as she would. It also helps me saying, “Nina Simone didn’t worry about the audience, so neither should I”.

What aspects of Nina do you hope that the audience will take away from the production?
I hope that the audience gains more appreciation for her musical gift, but most importantly, I hope they walk away with an understanding of a complex woman. I’ve been really happy to hear that most audience members have told me that they feel inspired. Feeling inspired by her music is how this whole play started, so with audiences walking away feeling that way I feel that through my gifts, I’m helping Nina Simone’s work continue to impact the world.

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